Friday, January 14, 2011

The Door Opened and I Walked Through With My Rock Credentials

He was a soundman and appeared open to conversation, unlike most of his ilk. With dark, short hair, an oversized black pullover hoodie, black Dickies that came down a little below the knees, white socks and black low tops, he wasn’t breaking any ground in roadie/soundman fashion. Whereas the musician/soundman relationship is usually adversarial, wrought with ego and competition, I could tell right away that he was different. He wasn’t put out doing sound for a Karaoke band at a corporate party and immediately gave me the vibe that we were in this together. And we were in this together.

Through my eyes we were peers, having shared common ground in music, culture and experience. I felt I knew him or his kind and could take a picture of him that was close to being accurate. Or, really, I felt he might understand or take pity on me if I talked to him about things that happened when he was in grade school or not born.

In reality, there was at least 16 years between us. I’m sure he could clearly see this, being much younger, but I couldn’t. I tend to look at 30+ year olds and think I look like them. It’s amazing how delusional your eyes can be. Oddly, to anybody under 30, I try to give off a fatherly, non-threatening vibe. I like to imagine myself in a wool blazer when I’m playing this character.

I was the first to arrive for sound check, loading my amp on stage. I said hello to the soundman (Dave) and did my usual self-deprecating shtick about being in Karaoke band. It usually breaks the ice. He nodded politely, smiled and continued setting up.

“So, what are you guys?” he abruptly said, stopping what he was doing.

I gave him our stock answer: “We’re a live Karaoke band - you sing, we play. You pick a song from our song list, sign up and sing with us. We know about 550 songs.” This is usually met with 2 responses:

“Interesting.” Interesting is a euphemism for bad idea or stupid.

“What a good idea.” Creative types and advertising people say this. This is why we’re hired for parties. We’re part of the Dog and Pony Show, playing between the henna artist giving fake tattoos and the stylist doing rock star makeovers.

“Kinda like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes?” He responded.

The door was open and I was walking through it with my backstage pass and rock credentials. Let the old guy pandering begin.

“You mean Fat Mike’s other band? I quickly replied, establishing that I knew who he was talking about by identifying a member of the band.

I continued. “I saw Fat Mike about 10 years ago on Divis and Fell. He looked like he just got off tour. Is he still married to what’s her name? You know he lives in St. Francis Woods?” Everything I could remember about Fat Mike I blurted out. It was pitiful. All my information was at least 15 years old and dated.

He was polite and corrected my inaccurate information: “I don’t think he lives St. Francis Woods anymore” and “I don’t think he’s still married to that girl.”

This didn’t stop me. “Doesn’t Greg Hetson from Circle Jerks play in that band, right?” I really had no idea if he did play with them, I just wanted to establish my old punk credentials. His responses never varied from one or two word answers. I decided to try another route:

“Do you like the White Stripes?” Jack White and the White Stripes were common ground. Everybody liked them or said they liked them, right? They offered enough hipster cache and made me look younger, I thought.

“Yeah, they’re ok.” It was a lukewarm response, not what I was hoping for. Ignoring the warning signs, I trudged on: “I saw Jack White on Conan last night. He played this original 50s rock-n-roll song and made it sound great, adding his own style. Even with Conan playing guitar on the song, it was really good. His voice sounded like The Killer.”

I regretted saying The Killer right away. I could’ve said Jerry Lee and left it at that.

Again, a lukewarm, polite response: “Oh really, I didn’t see it.” I couldn’t tell if he was “hipstering” me, but it seemed like he’d never heard of Conan. I didn’t take him as the “kill you television” type. Maybe I misread him.

Jim, the other member in the band, arrived and we asked Dave if he wanted us to do a sound check to get levels. He thought it was a good idea. Lev wasn’t there so I played drums and Jim played guitar and sang…like the White Stripes. I was painfully aware of the similarities, feeling very uncomfortable. To make matters worse, Jim suggested we check with Pretty Good Lookin’ by The White Stripes. In most circumstances this would be the appropriate song, given we were a 2 piece, but not today.

I reluctantly agreed, playing as lackluster as I could – not looking up. If a mask were available, I would’ve worn it.

I caught Dave’s eye and gave him a look that said, “Watcha gonna do? I’m 47. I’m trying, man. I’m trying. Give a brother a break.”

(Image: White Stripes Fan Art)

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